~ With a quick, five-ingredient sauce you mix directly in your slow cooker, these North Carolina-style barbecue chicken sandwiches are super easy and insanely delicious! ~
Barbecue is one of those foods that sparks fiery debate and causes otherwise-rational people to draw some pretty strict regional lines of allegiance. Probably brings a lot of men to blows faster than a pretty woman. No, really.
It’s kinda like chili. (Beans in Texas? Oh no you don’t, cowboy!)
Or like pizza. (Chowing down on a deep-dish pie? Well Chicagoan … just be glad those New Yorkers are too busy folding their super-thin crusts in half to fight about it!)
Barbecue’s the same way. Even the spelling is up for debate … barbecue … barbeque … bar-b-q … BBQ???
But how about we put fiery debates and bickering aside for just one moment and drool a little together over today’s recipe. Take a peek at our tutorial video, and you’ll see just how crazy-easy our Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are to make … and you’ll completely stop caring about how to spell it or what city it came from!
So Just What Is Real BBQ?
The true mecca for barbecue in America is heavily concentrated in the southeastern states (y’all). But the variation is incredible, and the staunch supporters of each barbecue style will tell you their way is the best and only way. Competition at barbecue cook-offs is mighty intense as a result. Bragging rights, you know.
There are wet rubs and dry rubs.
There’s the sweet, thick, tomato-based Kansas City-style sauce or the more vinegary, peppery sauces of the Carolinas.
And don’t even get a die-hard barbecue fanatic started on the subject of which meat can be used in a proper ‘cue … the wrong choice is practically high treason in some states!
So I realize that I’m treading on hallowed ground in offering up a BBQ recipe today. But I’m game if you are.
Let me be clear, though. I love barbecue. Of any kind.
I’m not picking favorites or choosing sides.
And since I live in Ohio, I’m blissfully removed from having to choose at all (yay – score one for Ohio!). I can embrace the “cowboy style” of West Texas one day and cook up some delicious Memphis-style bar-b-q (topped with pickles, of course!) the next.
Carolina Barbecue … My Way!
So with all due respect, I’m going Carolina-style with this recipe. Eastern North Carolina, to be exact.
The specialty there is a thin but boldly flavored sauce made of vinegar with a bit of cayenne-inspired spiciness. It’s fabulous. My mouth waters just thinking about it (not kidding).
And yes, yes, my dear NC readers … I know you really don’t call it barbecue unless I’ve cooked myself up a hog. I know, I know. But this is my BBQ … m’kay? And I’m going with chicken. Lean and healthy and the perfect backdrop for such a delicious sauce.
Trust me. It works.
And here’s why we’re going NC-style today, friends. It’s because I miss North Carolina (sniff, sniff).
My family’s favorite unplug and reconnect vacation is, hands-down, the Carolina coast. Corolla, NC and South Carolina’s Hilton Head are our faves, but we’ve stayed all along the Outer Banks and Carolina coastline. From Duck to Avon to Emerald Isle.
It’s all good. It’s all beach (which is … good)!
I just got back from a fantastically raucous vacay in Corolla with 22 of my nearest and dearest. It was hilarious and spontaneous and delicious. My family’s just kind of like that. A whole lot of glass-is-half-full people who make terrible puns but fabulous food. A good kind of family to have, no doubt (except, maybe, for some of those puns).
I miss lots and lots of stuff about the beach, but BBQ is one thing I can recreate back here in Ohio. (Tossing sand all over my floor and permanently moving all 22 of those bad-pun-making aunts and uncles and cousins into my home weren’t great options … so I stuck to what I knew would work – food!)
Why You’ll Love this BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwich Recipe
This recipe is insanely easy!
Prep time is about 5 minutes max (and that’s if you’re on sloooooow beach bum time).
No, it’s not the same as spending hours mopping my brow while I slow roast a whole hog over an open pit, but when I’m in a hurry, some chicken breasts and my slow cooker are the perfect substitute. Absolutely captures the barbecue flavor I love, and I’m still out the door in no time!
It’s crazy-good, and those spice lovers in your house can kick it right up with a little extra hot sauce.
Oh – and this pulled chicken sandwich is the whole reason I created the recipe for No-Mayo Greek Yogurt Coleslaw. They’re perfect for each other. Perfect. Highly recommended!
So, pile that coleslaw on nice and high, and you’re good to go. Really, really good. Lip smackin’, finger lickin’, chillaxin’ by the ocean good.
I promise, no matter where you live and what kind of barbecue you swear by, you’re gonna love this quick and easy version.
And hey – if you need to, just call it something besides barbecue. Call it your new favorite chicken sandwich. Or go with I-Can’t-Believe-How-Delicious-This-Is Pulled Chicken. Whatever works.
No matter the name, you’ll definitely be gobbling this up!
Looking for More Easy, Healthy Crock-Pot Chicken Recipes?
We’ve got lots of ideas for you here at THK! You can peek at all of ’em by clicking here: Crockpot Chicken Recipes. Or, hop directly over to one like:
- 3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos
- Crock-Pot Creamy Chicken Corn Chowder
- Creamy Crock-Pot Chicken Stew with Potatoes, Carrots and Tomatoes
Or, if you’d just love to try this North Carolina Barbecue recipe in your Instant Pot, instead of your slow cooker, you’ll want to try our Carolina-Style Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.
And, for an entirely different (but equally scrumptious!) barbecue chicken experience, check out our Easy, Cheesy BBQ Chicken Wraps. They’re ready in under 10 minutes!
Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
With a 5-ingredient sauce you mix directly in your slow cooker, these North Carolina-style Crock-Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches are super easy and so delicious!
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Whole wheat buns and coleslaw for serving, if desired (we use our No-Mayo Greek Yogurt Coleslaw)
- additional hot sauce for passing at the table, if desired
- Combine vinegar, brown sugar, salt, hot sauce, and black pepper in your slow cooker. Add chicken.
- Cook in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. If using a larger 5-6 quart crock-pot, cook on low for about 6 hours. (See note.)
- Just before serving, shred chicken (with two forks) and stir into sauce to incorporate.
- Serve on buns with coleslaw on top or as an accompaniment on the side, and pass hot sauce as needed.
Cook time: Through all of our testing, we found that this recipe works best in a 3-4 quart slow cooker, on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. If you're using a larger 5-6 quart crock-pot, we recommend cooking on low for only about 6 hours. We do not recommend cooking this recipe on high in a 5-6 quart crock-pot because the chicken tends to overcook and become dry. At the end of cook time, the chicken should be cooked through and should shred easily but also still be really moist and dripping with a bit of vinegary sauce once shredded.
Slow cooker variations: The exact heat and speed of cooking can vary between different slow cookers. Some slow cookers, especially newer models, may cook hotter and faster than others. Our research has also led us to believe that some models allow for imperceptible evaporation of liquid (although you'd expect that no liquid would be lost when using a slow cooker), which can leave your recipes less saucy and moist. Because this particular recipe uses very little liquid, it's particularly sensitive to these variations. No need to worry – it's delicious even when cooked until it's a bit drier. However, that's why we recommend shorter cooking times and/or lower heat for this recipe so that it will still be very moist and a bit saucy once fully cooked and shredded. Adding more liquid will lead to an unpleasantly sharp-tasting sauce (we've tried it) ... the key is simply to control the cook time and temperature to yield the most juicy, fall-apart-tender result.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 servings Serving Size: 2/3 cup chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 206Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2g
Nutrition information is provided for cooked, shredded chicken only, as nutrition can vary for the buns and coleslaw depending on what you choose to use. Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may additionally vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.
86 thoughts on “Crock-Pot North Carolina BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches”
I made it on Saturday & it was Delicious! I was a little concerned because all I could smell was vinegar but let me tell you it tasted awesome. I made the coleslaw that went along with it but ended up putting in some light mayonnaise and it tasted a lot better even though I have followed the directions for it. This is definitely a keeper pulled chicken recipe I just loved it and I have two people over but shared it with me and they thought it was awesome as well.
Oh, Meribeth, I’m just thrilled to hear that you like this BBQ recipe so much! It’s such a favorite at my house, and it makes me so happy that you and your friends loved it, too! Thanks bunches for taking a moment to pop back and let me know! 😀 ~Shelley
This is a good recipe that will keep me busy to entertain guests and my great husband..
Thanks for the recipes!
Hi, Suzette! I’m so glad you like this recipe! Thanks for commenting!
I need to triple this for a crowd. Should I triple all sauce ingredients? Same time for a 6 qt crock pot? I am a So Cal girl and don’t know much about NC barbque but it sure sounds and looks good!
Hi Cathy! I would triple all recipe ingredients. Regarding the cook time – be sure to check out all the notes we have underneath the directions on the recipe card. Particularly note that we suggest, “If you’re using a larger 5-6 quart crock-pot, we recommend cooking on low for only about 6 hours.” That may change a bit since you’re tripling the recipe, though – you might need a little extra cook time. Basically, there’s some variation among slow cooker brands in exactly how hot they run, and since I haven’t specifically tested tripling this recipe, I can’t say 100% for sure what a precise time would be for your slow cooker model/brand. I would recommend giving yourself a little extra time before you plan to serve this (maybe 7 or even 7.5 hours of a cook time window) – in case it needs to cook a little longer than 6 hours with a triple batch. Definitely check it around the 6-hour mark, though, and if it’s done, you could always hold it on the “keep warm” setting for an hour or so if needed – but that way, if you need a little more than 6 hours for it to be fall-apart tender, you’ll still be ready to serve guests on time. You’re looking for the chicken to be cooked through, juicy, tender and easy to shred. Also note that (regarding slightly overcooking it) we mention, “No need to worry – it’s delicious even when cooked until it’s a bit drier. However, that’s why we recommend shorter cooking times and/or lower heat for this recipe so that it will still be very moist and a bit saucy once fully cooked and shredded.” I hope all that helps! Good luck – let me know how it goes! And happy holidays! 😀 ~Shelley
Thank you for your prompt answer! I split 6 pounds of chicken and triple the sauce ingredients into 2 x 5 qt crockpots. I cooked on low for 5 hours and the meat was ready and easy to pull apart. We used your recipe and added a few drops of liquid smoke. I doubled the recipe of your coleslaw and it was all a HUGE hit for 14 hungry adults. Very little left overs. Will definitely make this again and so will all the others who asked for the recipe!!
Oh Cathy! You just made my morning! I’m truly so delighted to hear that this all worked out well for you and was a big success. Thanks bunches for taking a moment to pop back and let me know, especially during the busy-busy holiday season – it really means a lot! Happy holidays!!! ~Shelley
Am making this again for another crowd. It was so fun to go back to my comments and remind myself of how to triple! ? Am actually more than tripling so we MIGHT be lucky enough to have leftovers this time!!!!
So glad to hear you liked this enough to make it again!! Hope it’s as big of a hit the second time around! 😀 But hey … here’s hoping for some yummy leftovers for you to enjoy, too! 😉 ~Amy
Am making this again for another crowd. It was so fun to go back to my comments and remind myself of how to triple! ? Am actually more than tripling so we MIGHT be lucky enough to have leftovers this time!!!! Oh! And I’m making your Quinoa Edamame salad this time! Menu: NC pulled chicken sandwiches with coleslaw, QE salad and Lays potato chips! Can’t wait!
So glad to hear you liked this enough to make it again!! Hope it’s as big of a hit the second time around! ? But hey … here’s hoping for some yummy leftovers for you to enjoy, too! That sounds like an amazing menu — tons of my favorite dishes!! Sounds like THE party to be at! 😉 ~Amy
I’ve lived in Eastern NC (Jacksonville) my entire life, so I was excited to come across this recipe on my search for healthy recipes. I recently joined Weight Watchers so I’m on the lookout for yummy food that is low in points.
Let me just say that this pulled chicken “Eastern NC style” is EXCELLENT! I made the greek yogurt slaw to go with it too. SO SO good. The texture of the chicken and the flavor (even the appearance) were spot on. The only thing we noticed that was missing was the “fat” flavoring from the pulled pork. But who needs that when eating healthy, right? The only thing I can thing to add in my future batch is a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to the crock while cooking. But really it is perfect as is! By my calculations (using a standard Walmart brand burger bun) is 4 smart points per sandwich…that’s with the slaw, too! WOO HOO.
Thank you for this recipe!
Oh, Melissa – I was just so totally delighted to read your message! I often think that one of the real barriers in inspiring people to eat more healthfully is that often people think “healthy” food doesn’t really taste that great. But it doesn’t HAVE to be that way! I try so hard to prove that idea wrong, creating recipes that are both nutritious and also so darn yummy that people genuinely WANT to eat them! It means a lot to me to read your kind words about how much you enjoyed these sandwiches, and how well they fit (deliciously! 🙂 ) with your healthy-eating goals. Thank you for taking a moment to reach out! And yesssss – if you like things spicy, you should totally try adding those red pepper flakes – go for it! Thanks again – truly! I hope you’ll find other recipes here that make your Weight Watchers goals a fun, delicious adventure! 🙂 ~Shelley
I grew up in the BBQ triangle of Eastern NC. ( Goldsboro, Wilson and Kinston), now living in SC. The wife and l cook this recipe today with a slight variation, we added Brown sugar, black pepper and salt to 3/4 cup of Scott’s BBQ sauce which is a legendary sauce in Eastern NC. It turned out awesome.cooked perfect and fell apart easily when shredded with a fork. We use Lexington Red Slaw instead of the Greek slaw. (Lexington style slaw is from Western NC ) l am very picky when it comes to BBQ chicken and this was delicious. Great recipe.
Oh, Jon – I truly appreciate your comment! Of course, I’m just thrilled that you (an NC native! 🙂 ) loved the recipe idea, but I’m also so happy that you took a moment to share your variations. That gives other readers a great jumping-off point for personalizing their very own versions! Thank you so much – and have a terrific week! ~Shelley